When EA released its reboot of 1993 cyberpunk classic Syndicate last year, gamers who remembered the original were baffled.
The isometric real-time strategy of the original game had been replaced with a first-person shooter. A reasonably good FPS, to be sure, but one which had nothing in common with its namesake beyond the cyberpunk trappings.
Back to the Future
Developer Mike Diskett, who ported the original Syndicate to the Amiga and created the 1996 sequel, Syndicate Wars, thinks the same. So he's decided to do something about it: with Brisbane-based 5 Lives Studios, he's creating Satellite Reign, a "spiritual sequel" to Syndicate Wars. It may not have the Syndicate name, but in every other respect it looks like an evolution of the original game.
It's amazing to think of the technology changes since then," Diskett tells Stuff. "The original Syndicate was on, what, a 2MB PC with a 16MHz CPU, and now we're literally looking at 1,000 to 2,000 times the memory, and several hundred times the clock speed. I can't wait to see what we'll be able to do."
Move to the City
Satellite Reign will feature a similar isometric perspective to Syndicate – albeit rendered in full 3D – with the player controlling four cyborg agents as they do battle with a repressive corporation. So far, so familiar – but armed with modern technology the development team at 5 Lives Studios plans to make Satellite Reign a lot more involved.
"We don't just want to make a carbon copy, we want to add a lot of stuff to the game," says Diskett. The game will take place within a single living, breathing city with traffic, emergency services, civilians and even a power grid – Diskett's experience on Grand Theft Auto IV should stand him in good stead there.
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Instead of Syndicate's identical agents, Satellite Reign will feature four different classes of character. "We're trying to make Satellite Reign a bit more tactical than the original Syndicate," says Diskett. "We want to encourage using your units independently, and part of that is adding in these class-based agents. One of them has a base skillset in hacking, one has an assassin skillset, which is long-range sniping and close-in stealth melee attacks. The support unit; he's a medic, he can be used to provide ammo and shields to your characters. Then there's the soldier." Which does what it says on the tin.
Intelligence, Perception, Awareness
The most exciting part of the game, though, is the AI – rather than using scripted actions, civilians and enemies will react to you using behaviours and perception. "We don't script and tell them exactly what to do, says Diskett, "we program them to react to various stimuli, like being shot at or hearing a noise.
"It's much more about having them analyse the situation and having you create situations that the designers haven't expected. So our AI has to react on the fly to what they player's doing, and respond in what's hopefully a sensible fashion.
"With Satellite Reign I want it to be so that almost everything's unscripted," he adds. "You'll be able to play a mission and have a completely different experience to someone else – because you went gung-ho up the front door, whereas they set some mines down the reinforcement route and set up snipers and played everything carefully."
Satellite Reign's hit its Kickstarter goal, and with a few days left on the clock looks set to make some of its stretch goals too – including bringing the original composer of Syndicate's iconic theme music on board. With all those pieces in place, you never know – it might even be as good as the original.